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ghstudio

An elite plus tries HAL - on Veendam now

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We are on the HAL Veendam, our first HAL Cruise...we have over 10 Celebrity Cruises so I thought I might compare our experiences. The Veendam carries about 1400 passengers and that factors into our comparison with M and S class ships.

 

Our cabin is comparable in size to celebrity balcony cabins even though Hal calls it a suite. Price was comparable to celebrity C1 and A2 cabins...about 200 pp/day...of course prices vary by ship and cruise.  We have anytime dining and we choose select dining on celebrity.  The are essentially the same. I’ll talk about food at some later point.

 

Demographics....we’ve all heard “the average age on HAL is dead”...but looking around, I think the age of the passengers is about the same as we’ve found on longer celebrity cruises.  The difference is that there are very few under 50...I’ve only seen one child.  If you are in your 60’s and 70,s you’ll fit right in.  Note: we fit.

 

Ship: very clean, comfortable seats everywhere unlike celebrity where we find chairs just too large for comfort. 

 

Crowds/lines: probably ship size dependent but there are no lines, always places to sit.

 

Crew friendliness: same as celebrity...very friendly and willing to help.

 

Service...Hal very easy to find someone to order a drink...in the buffet, someone always available to help if you need help. Big difference is that on HAL, they serve..if you want a salad, they handle the tongs.  The wine folks at dinner are sommeliers! But one place that’s lacking is service in the mdr...it can be slow.

 

Food: I think the food is pretty comparable and we’re foodies.  The buffet has multiple stations, Asian, Italian, tacos plus the usual carved meats and prepared dishes.  Everything I’ve tried has been good. Pastries are better on HAL..and that’s a surprise.  Many more choices of buffet desserts on celebrity, but most, look better than they are.  I had a cheese plate for dessert in the mdr and it was four different cheeses with dried fruit and crackers served on a slate tile...you don’t see that on celebrity. Buffet breakfast in the buffet area..made to order waffles, eggs, omelette and likely more...and no lines or searching for a table.  Maybe smaller ships are the way to go.  Alas, I do miss celebrity breadsticks.  Hal’s bagels are far better than celebrity’s rolls with a hole in the middle.  Salmon is the same on both.

 

Drinks...Hal has menus that actually show prices of liquors...by brand and I think most common brands are in the $7-8 range plus 15% gratuity.  There is a happy hour from 4-5 and 9-10 where you get a second drink for $2...so a single buffalo trace for $8 becomes a double for $10 and so on.  Nothing like that on celebrity.

 

More later....I’ll try to answer questions.

 

Edited by ghstudio

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Does the ship have the Crows Nest?

 

Smaller ships are the way to go.

 

We are sailing HAL in May for the third time.

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Yes, I’m sitting in the crows nest watching for whales

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What itinerary - what part of the world - are you in? Thanks!

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Enjoying your comparison review.  We have mainly been cruising on Celebrity, but, after 10 plus years, are back on Holland.  We sailed on the Oosterdam last November, and will be boarding the Amsterdam in less than two weeks for 51 days!

 

Wishing you a wonderful cruise.  

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Very interesting review! We have been on Holland America ships ( small to big - from Prinsendam - gone now -  to Koningsdam and back) as well as on Celebrity ships numerous times and have enjoyed all of them. We, too think that both lines are really comparable and we'll gladly sail on both again, depending on the itinerary which nowadays if the most interesting incentive to book for us.

Prices quite often are a bit better on HAL ships especially regarding (junior) suites or specialty restaurants as well as drinks prices , service and food we also find comparable but better in HAL's buffet restaurants. The best perk for loyalty cruisers we find free laundry ( on HAL ships 4*Mariners and upwards) or  Celebrity's free bags once a week.

Have a lovely time and say Hello to New England... We fondly remember our cruise on "Summit" a few years ago and we might go again in 2020 on "Zuiderdam"...

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Both celebrity and Hal must have hired the same people to write their mobile apps.  Both offer messaging on board...and neither notifies you with a tone that you’ve received a msg....making that highly touted “feature”, essentially useless unless you sit with the application open and are watching your phone/tablet.

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Thanks for the review. You’ve reported on some interesting comparisons. What’s their entertainment like? Keep enjoying 😉.

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Have cruised with HAL several times in the past though with Celebrity more often.

Was scheduled to cruise on the Apex in Dec. 2020 but after reviewing the itinerary and COST, cancelled and moved to HAL. Same dates, better itinerary and much better price for a "real" balcony and not just a moveable window.

Edited by PROCRUISE

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We skipped the singer last night...will see the show tonight and report back.  There is a pianist playing at times...also a violin/piano duet...both are good background music

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We always avoid HAL because of their terrible smoking policy.  That changed a few years ago.  

 

One thing that I notice about HAL's prices is they do offer discounts but usually don't cut much until a few months prior to a cruise.  We like to book early.

 

 

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Other than one RCI cruise with the kids and grandkids, all of our cruises have been on Celebrity or HAL. Our last two were on HAL (Nieuw Amsterdam and Nieuw Statendame), but our next will be on Celebrity (Eclipse and Equinox). There are far more similarities than differences, in our estimation, and our choice of cruise is usually based on itinerary. We find that there are greater difference from ship to ship within a line than there is between lines, something that I'm sure we'd notice with the Edge or Apex compared to the S-class ships.

 

@ghstudio's observations certainly reflect our views, and we look forward to more.

 

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2 minutes ago, 4774Papa said:

We always avoid HAL because of their terrible smoking policy.  That changed a few years ago.  

 

One thing that I notice about HAL's prices is they do offer discounts but usually don't cut much until a few months prior to a cruise.  We like to book early.

 

 

What terrible smoking policy? There are only one or two hidden corners on the ships plus a closed room for cigar smokers we have noticed. I'm not sure if there are still "smokers's nights" in the Casino or whether HAL has stopped that practice, as well.

The restrictive policy regarding smokers is one of the reasons why we prefer Holland America, Celebrity and Azamara for our favourite cruise lines, but avoid MSC and Costa as well as the German cruiselines.

Regarding HAL's pricing policy it's often quite good at the time when the new cruise schedules appear which is perfect for early bookers. We avoid promotion times when the product seems to go up in price... Good again after final payment but then you often have to pay in full and the whole payment is  non-refundable! ( at least here in Europe)

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12 minutes ago, 4774Papa said:

We always avoid HAL because of their terrible smoking policy.  That changed a few years ago.  

 

One thing that I notice about HAL's prices is they do offer discounts but usually don't cut much until a few months prior to a cruise.  We like to book early.

 

 

 HAL's new ships allow smoking in the casino and it is hard to avoid.  I won't sail on these but do have reservations on Eurodam next month, Oosterdam in March 2020 and Celebrity Apex in Oct 2020.  We are Plus with X and 3 star with HAL (4* in March). Perks at these levels are much better with X. Ex free internet up to 240 minutes.  Free drinks from 5-7. Some of HAL's music is better. Food being subjective but fine on both. Service has been impeccable on both. Itinerary, mostly drives our choices.  Easy for us to make choices. Have been on Princess, Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Hilton Nile, and Staten Island Ferry. Still prefer X and HAL.

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You said you are in a HAL Suite.  How are the suite benefits, is the suite restaurant very good?   What about the suite lounge area?

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I have not found a single person smoking on our ship which includes the casino

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18 minutes ago, grayjay said:

What terrible smoking policy?

@4774Papa was probably referring to the policy that allowed smoking on balconies until a couple of years ago. As he said, that policy has finally been changed.

 

More than half of the HAL fleet still allow smoking in the casino, but not on all nights. Unfortunately, and to the dismay of many long-time passengers, this includes the Koningsdam and the Nieuw Statendam, HAL's newest ships. Many hoped that HAL would introduce an inside smoking ban from the beginning, but no such luck. Until someone can teach smoke to remain in one place, it will continue to drift out of the casinos into other nearby venues.  

 

Edited to add that the Veendam still has designated smoking nights, unless there has been a further change not reflected as yet on the website.

Edited by Fouremco

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10 minutes ago, grayjay said:

What terrible smoking policy? There are only one or two hidden corners on the ships plus a closed room for cigar smokers we have noticed. I'm not sure if there are still "smokers's nights" in the Casino or whether HAL has stopped that practice, as well.

The restrictive policy regarding smokers is one of the reasons why we prefer Holland America, Celebrity and Azamara for our favourite cruise lines, but avoid MSC and Costa as well as the German cruiselines.

Regarding HAL's pricing policy it's often quite good at the time when the new cruise schedules appear which is perfect for early bookers. We avoid promotion times when the product seems to go up in price... Good again after final payment but then you often have to pay in full and the whole payment is  non-refundable! ( at least here in Europe)

A few years ago HAL was practically the only major cruise line that allowed smoking on balconies.  Also, it had a reputation for attracting smokers, probably because of the policy.  That did change.  However, that is the main reason that we never cruised on HAL.

 

I can remember when we did Alaska in September 2016, we were in Denali doing the shuttle day tour of the park.  Our bus stopped at a hotel and picked up about 40 HAL passengers (they all  had their HAL name plates on lanyards).  The odor of cigarette smoke was awful.  No smoking was allowed, but clearly the HAL passengers on the bus brought it with them on their clothes.  We were not able to open windows much and had to deal with the smoke odor the entire day.

 

Also, I have been on cruise critic since 2010 and read quite a bit about this policy and HAL, as well as other cruise line policies.

At one time it attracted smokers because it allowed smoking on balconies as well as many other places on the ship.

 

Celebrity and Royal have good policies with a few places set aside for smokers, NCL does as well, unfortunately they allow smoking in the casino, so if you pass through there or are near there, you get it.

 

I always compare HAL, Princess, Celebrity, Royal and NCL prior to booking a cruise.  Right now, I am looking at transatlantics and finding Royal to be the best deal.   Perhaps I will have an opportunity to do HAL in the future, since their policy on smoking is in line with the other cruise lines.

10 minutes ago, grayjay said:

 

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1 hour ago, Covepointcruiser said:

You said you are in a HAL Suite.  How are the suite benefits, is the suite restaurant very good?   What about the suite lounge area?

No, they said that HAL calls it a suite.  They also said priced like C1 or A2 cabin prices @$200pp/day.

 

Yes, Celebrity has those features in a very basic suite  but at 2 to 3 times the price they quoted.

Edited by ECCruise

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9 minutes ago, ECCruise said:

No, they said that HAL calls it a suite.  They also said priced like C1 or A2 cabin prices @$200pp/day.

 

Yes, Celebrity has those features in a very basic suite  but at 2 to 3 times the price they quoted.

 If HAL calls it a Suite, then I would think it is a Suite to HAL.  

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